phoenixes, in fact; we all rise from the ashes left by mid-night fires
I don’t know how I managed to start a new year, posting on the first day. Maybe it’s a fluke.
I thought many times about coming back to blogging on the regular this past year. I felt like I had some things to say, but lately it’s felt like everyone’s got something to say and there’s too much noise for my words to matter; it felt like everything worth saying became something that was grossly overused. In a year that felt too political, too dramatic, too over-the-top from one day to the next, it was hard to process much more than the day-to-day changes as we constantly adjusted to the milieu.
But you know what? I miss writing. I’ve been back in school for like two years now, and if there’s one thing I miss, it’s writing for fun. Don’t get me wrong — school is school! But when I write for school, I still try to make it fun. So sorry to say, I’m not going to be that guy — that “how about that COVID guy”, the “how about that terrible politician” guy.
Noise, noise, noise!
I’d rather talk about anything else.
So? . . . Maybe this is the year I rise again. Perhaps I will find that 20 minutes, here and there, for getting back in the habit. Perhaps we will all find ourselves coming back again, shaking off the dust, getting back in the groove and finding that for all the noise and inconvenience we have endured, life is still an adventure — one worth exploring.
Maybe I’ll kickstart it by finishing the handful of drafts I have in my draft folder.
Sink or swim — here’s looking forward to kicking 2021 in the pants.
the guest will take
communion of souls
Nothing is better than having guests to break up the routines of our daily lives. People like Mme. Ross and I — that is, people who don’t thrive in large social circles — craft our lives day by day in the comfort of our home and our lives there. The occasional gathering of our closest friends really brings something to our home, and we do our best to give back as well. We help our friends move, we make them our neighbors, and we share what we have with them. To live that life on a permanent, unbroken basis seems like an idyllic dream.
On the other hand, to go to work forty hours a week for people with ridiculous, half-hearted, loosely-applied restrictions on the use of personal technology; who rarely appreciate what I’m bringing to the proverbial table; and who seem to specialize only in making others feel stupid for being themselves; had begun to seem like an awful chore until the plant was given the week off for the 4th of July, and while I thought that going back after that week off would be like more of the same torture, it seems as though the days are going fast, maybe speeding me along toward the next Summer adventure.
Or maybe it’s just a small respite in that tug-of-war.
I sometimes feel like a guest in my own life — like nothing I do entitles me to comfort or indulgence. As though very little that I do gives me a reasonable excuse to be the selfish person that I often see in myself. I stay withdrawn, and the work life that drives to the rhythm of hammers on metal while presenting as a music video fit for the Doors’ People Are Strange becomes the theme I take home in my head as I frustrate myself trying to pound some inspiration into the hearts of those who feel like their only purpose at work is to make a paycheck. To work as little as possible, think as little as possible, never realizing that it’s easier than they’re making it out to be. I often end up taking that unwelcome guest home with me.
A little effort goes a long way, is all I’m saying. But what if I’m putting too much effort into the wrong endeavors?
It would be interesting if every day was a different event — a parade, a carnival in the park, a bike ride along the river. Somehow our culture insinuates the fulfillment of that dream in a life that often demands more of us than we can reasonably give. It stretches us dangerously thin, like worn-out bubblegum.
I’m starting to find that the older I get, the more I question the validity of the holidays we gather around. If you’ve been around you might be well aware that every holiday has its holdouts.
It’s hard to discuss a holiday without at least cracking open thought-boxes filled with hypocrisies and ironies that we pick up regarding these things as we ride out life — the unspeakable-in-polite-company stuff that rains on the parade. They’re easy to suppress, but hard not to think about.
Autonomy is a good one for Independence Day. It is, after all, about freedom . . . of a sort. And it’s an election year no less.
I don’t talk politics if I can avoid it, except with Mme. Ross. And co-workers, when I’m sure it’s not going to be an issue. I hate it when others bring it up and say something that either makes them look bad or something that I disagree with. Usually that’s something that happens concurrently. So I’m not talking politics here either, but it seems that down the road we get to vote.
If you believe in that kind of thing. Autonomy for the win!!
. . . right?
You know what I can get behind, though? Running. I can get behind running. This morning I took up my second ever race, and my first in a few years — a non-competitive 5k walk/run to help the Bismarck Cancer Center Foundation. That’s a little ironic in a way, because they focus on chemo and radiation therapies, which I sincerely hope can eventually become a thing of the past. But I figure, the human race sometimes makes baby steps instead of huge strides. It probably depends on who’s footing the bill, and I doubt that 600 runners are going to crack the cancer problem, know what I mean?
Man, I’ve been down so long — cue the B. B. King music here — I’ve been down so long, because of this injury to my feet last Spring. And while it really didn’t start there, I have to wonder why I ever had this crazy idea I could try to get into parkour in the first place. There’s no gyms, no trainers, no clubs around here to speak of where I could train. But we have to start somewhere, right? And I think this is where my running got off track.
To me, running is a different kind of freedom. You can take things and run with them, and that includes yourself. Then sometimes we stop to breathe, reflect, and we figure we might stick around for a little bit before continuing on. Before we know it, we’re stuck in the mud with a whole new set of habits, and getting back on that track well might be a lot harder that we originally reckoned. Sometimes we hit a downward trend long before we see it as such, and that’s unfortunate — but not impossible to reverse.
So after changing my diet and exercise regime to try and get myself to the point where I could do pull-ups, I found myself not only failing to make progress, but trending toward both lower levels of fitness and toward weight gain. Double negative. Then I step hard on a rock with one foot, the same day that I’m pretty sure I overtrained both my Achilles’, and failed to recognize the need for anti-inflammatory medication despite the fact that I hobbled for weeks.
It’s been kind of a hard aspect of the past year, not to mention the insult of a (literally) shrinking wardrobe and building on the failure to train for pull-ups, which I think is just ridiculous. I can push a 1,016 pound sheet of half-inch-thick steel through a shear, yet I couldn’t pull up 170 to 230 pounds from a dead hang.
Life continues to be a head-scratcher, even when we thing we’ve gotten most of it figured out. But that’s why I can get behind running. It’s a simple thing that most people are born to be able to do. It helps keep my head in the game. It guides me toward healthy priorities. Most of all, I think it’s presenting me a reason to look forward to holidays because it turns out that there are races in town that are organized around major holidays: the Turkey Trot, the Santa Run, Ribfest . . .
Now I can definitely get behind that. That’s legit.
find their place —
there’s no use fighting
what always passes.
we build dreams —
fading river docks
Have you ever found yourself wondering what Merlyn’s deal was?
Like, here’s this guy — but not just any guy — one of the last few-and-far-between holdouts of the eld: the ancient power and science being driven out of the world by the rampant colonization of the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons.
Being driven out, and yet being driven by the hand of destiny to give one of them the power to civilize the known world. To finish the job once and for all.
But things never go exactly as planned, and this was no exception. In the end, the efforts made by Merlyn Ambrosius in the interest of preserving the scant remains of the Celtic pagan tradition faded into history, and the power of a civilized Western Europe in the second millennium is now an undeniable fact.
Yet Merlyn must have known this would happen, because there always seems to be this intimation that he had a sense of the future — visions, in fact, of things to come. . . strange visions indeed. So did he do his best to change the inevitable future, or was he helping push the world away from its mystic origins?
Doubtless Merlyn knew what lay behind the backdrop of ordinary life, and what would be the ultimate fate of a person who faded from this world, generally speaking.
This magic was the old science, and if I was transformed into a mystical being with magic powers, I’d lift up that veil and have a peek at what lay beneath. . .
. . . and the Universe says, “no spoilers, Surfer Rob!”
Because we perpetually act out this play — this little bit of theatre, while underneath the skin of consciousness, within each of us lies the eternal image of the divine Creator; because before and after there is only sleep, and in crossing over we regain the right to know what is known out there.
But as much as I like surprises, if I had the power I would pull back the shroud, reveal the Universe’s beating heart, and take in what I could; for how could I hope to understand the breadth of what is to be seen there? Could we really think that Merlyn knew what he was seeing in his visions of the future? Like Nostradamus, he likely only understood what the lens of experience allowed, and the rest . . .
the cycle stalled —
remains to be seen
on littered ground
I think cemeteries are cool. Often the ones we visit for one reason or another have well-manicured lawns, roads, and walks. Those are okay, but the older cemeteries have a lot of flair that the modern ones don’t even attempt to replicate; and maybe there’s a reason for that.
Perhaps we — the modern society — are just hanging on to a tradition that no longer inspires us.
Humans have been preserving their dead for thousands of years. Mummification — examples of which have been found in ancient cultures from South America, Africa, and Asia — did not long pre-date embalming, though. Egypt had the most well-developed embalming practices of the known ancient world, where over five thousand years ago you could have met priests whose job it was to keep the body intact and awaiting the return of its soul.
But today, I wonder why we persist with what is obviously a parasitic practice performed upon the planet.
The line is that modern chemical embalming took off during the Civil War, when Dr. Thomas Holmes was commissioned by the Union Army to preserve the bodies of soldiers who had died far from home so they wouldn’t arrive at their doorstep all gross and corpsified. The truth is that experiments with the practice pre-dates this by a few centuries. We experimented with various alcohols, essential oils, and spices. After Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar, just about fifty years before the start of the Civil War, he was preserved in brandy, wine, myrrh, and camphor.
Dr. Holmes, however, preferred arsenic.
After these human pickles arrived they’d be dropped in a pine box which would be dropped in a hole in the ground. Often they were buried in proximity to their comrades. Eventually the boxes rotted away, and the earth came rushing in. The bodies, for all the efforts of the good doctor, gave way too. After all, you can’t resist the forces of nature forever.
And in gaining access to those raw materials, the soil was ambushed by the toxic substance that permeated the tissues therein. Arsenic leached into the ground, and from there into the water supplies.
Not to mention it’s hard to prove poisoning by arsenic once a body has been embalmed.
So nowadays, the use of less toxic chemicals is standard practice (less toxic, but not non-toxic.) We bury our dead at great expense, considering the cost of the casket and the burial vault, which is often required by a cemetery. The vault is just another box, but it keeps the ground nice and flat.
So this raises the question in my mind, do we harm the planet more as we live, or when we are unnaturally interred post-mortem?
New cemeteries are boring; I’m going to be honest about that. Old cemeteries are where it’s at. So instead of banging at the same old drum of embalming and interment into a terrestrial storage locker, why aren’t we pursuing wholesale practices that help return us to the ground in a more natural fashion?
There’s cremation, which was a good first step. But burning someone creates carbon emissions and the possiblity of mercury emissions from tooth fillings. Alternatives to that include alkaline hydrolysis, which renders the soft tissues to an inert liquid; natural burial, which allows the body to break down naturally in the soil; and promession, in which the body is flash-frozen, pulverized, freeze-dried, sifted for metals (tooth fillings and implants,) and then buried in a biodegradable casket, which allows for full breakdown in less than a year.
I like that idea. Plant me in the ground with a tree on top. Mme. Ross wants to be turned into a tree too; we can be planted side-by-side, so that we can cross-pollinate for as long as those trees stand.
At the end of the post, I just want to go back to where I came from when I’m all done. Let the living have the Earth.
I was thinking the other day about this species of tension that people tend to have, between addictions and unmotivated desires; by “people,” of course, I refer to myself.
But maybe you get what I’m talking about.
There’s stuff I need to do. Things I badly want to get done. Finish the playhouse. Cut back the hedges. Get ready for cold weather. The list is long but the spirit’s not willing. Earlier in the year I had all this motivation and made things happen, but now I feel like my priorities have shifted without observing the courtesy of giving any notice whatsoever. I started to blog again. Started to knit again. Started getting sucked into this fantastic game called Cities: Skylines for hours at a time. Is it the changing of the weather, I wonder? Or did I make the mistake of switching gears too soon? My hands do these things as though they have a mind of their own while the other work languishes.
As the days grow shorter, I find myself spinning more than anything, in the rush to prepare for the coming season. Too much to do, and plenty of time too . . .
a splendid rise
through obscuring mists —
Have you ever noticed that sometimes there’s a stigmatic backlash whenever the concept of fairness comes up?
This bears mentioning, because in society we have concepts of fairness that are upheld by legislation, regardless: equal opportunity employment, fairness in the workplace, in medicine, in real estate, etc. Whether or not it works is not the issue though, but how sometimes the response to a complaint that something is unfair is that “life is not fair”. Stop being a baby. Suck it up.
The anticipation of such a backlash can be an obstacle to change, right?
And sometimes, when I feel as though I’ve been treated unfairly, I begin to question myself and my own motivation for feeling that way; maybe I’m missing something. The information I have might be incomplete. Or perhaps I’m just frustrated that something isn’t going my way.
What’s more is that the farther in the past these things are, the more perspective we gain from their passing from view. We wouldn’t be where we are now if that didn’t happen — so does that change the spin of fairness we ascribe to that event?
Besides, not getting a fair shake isn’t the worst of life’s evils — things like natural disasters, poverty, famine, perpetual war . . .
When we used to live near the Capitol in Bismarck, I might have said that the most beautiful place in the neighborhood was the Capitol grounds. The expansive green lawn populated with statues of local heroes and gardens of native flora. The running path I often used. It was a park and a public space where I would go to fly my RC helicopter or play on the lawn with Mme. Ross and Little Miss Laney.
But when we moved to our new home it was a little different. It’s not that the neighborhood is unsightly in any way, but I just wouldn’t describe any part of it as particularly beautiful. There are really nice houses marked as heritage homes by the historical society and there’s a nice running path behind the high school that never fails to please the eye, but to me there is no place like home; it’s my island. My home base.
Just like the house I grew up in. Every day started and ended at home, with my family –more or less.
And though you can’t change the past, you can always change the future because you never know the shape of it until it’s too late to do anything about it. So I make it a priority to make my home everything I had and more. Because it’s not about the bay window in the kitchen and the front and back decks, the swimming pool, the real wood-burning fireplace, the shrubs and trees and the chain link fence. It’s not about the dutch door at the top of the basement stairs or the piano in the basement, unloved and forgotten.
A family’s home is about family life, and as such my home is a work-in-progress canvas upon which I impose my art. I’m proud of it, and of the work Mme. Ross and I put into shaping it into the most beautiful place in the neighborhood.
There’s no place like home — after all, that’s where I keep my treasure.
fragments of truth,
It’s kind of a no-brainer to say that a blog is a personal space, and that as such it should reflect the personality and values of its contributor(s). Rob’s Surf Report is no exception, but it’s been a strange, random sort of evolution.
I started the blog with the intention of learning and writing about surfing, but life never seems to push me in the right direction when it comes to that. But after rebooting — after months of community interaction, forming the writing habit, spending actual time in considering my desires and goals as they related to my blogging, I decided to stick with the name and to change the philosophy because Rob’s Surf Report had become a different sort of beast. It was more about riding out the waves of day-to -day life, of dealing with the ups and downs, and of finding the takeaway in that daily practice.
In a way this blog betrays that mid-course change as you might find in some dark corners the vestiges of my original (misguided) intent. But what the blog has become, hopefully, mirrors what I think is my greatest strength (since good looks don’t last forever:) my capacity for reflection, and making connections. For throwing stones, watching the ripples radiate, and then bringing the picture back together in a different light.
I’m trying to come back to that now, to find ways to do it better, more skillfully — but like any art it requires practice and patience. While the latter is another strength of mine, the former could quite possibly be my undoing.
Why is it that sometimes the hardest thing about some endeavours is finding the drive to get started in the first place?
We have a billion things to do. Make coffee, clean up, go to work — doing our part in countless ways, and so naturally we have those things that we begin with little effort, but whose completion becomes something of an inconvenience, possibly to the point of falling by the wayside: a half-trimmed hedge that nags at you until it begins using the neighbor’s voice to make itself heard. And yet when there are things that should be quick and easy to do, sometimes we . . .
This past Thursday morning it was lightning and rain, so I couldn’t run. That was totally legitimate. Friday it rained. Saturday too. I just won’t run in any rain unless it catches me by surprise. Sunday had me feeling like it was getting ridiculous with all the rain, but Autumn is here and she’s decided to bring the full of her cold, cloudy gloom to our skies. That’s what killed my motivation this weekend. I never got out to the garage. I never got to run. I never found the words.
I noodled around in my vintage-style Flash T-shirt and tried to work up the motivation to throw on my gear and shoot out the door like a bolt of lightning . . .
Instead, I remained static in the cloud of weekend activities.
I’ll do it this morning though, before I get ready for work. I can actually feel the charge of motivation building up.
Isn’t it odd how it’s easier to fit something like that in when you’re supposed to be busy?